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Valentines: Woolie Rag Quilt

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Wrap up your Valentine in this incredibly snugly rag quilt with its special ‘secret admirer heart' appliquéd onto the bottom row. 'What's a Rag Quilt?' I was hoping you'd ask! A rag quilt is sewn together so the seams show on the outside. After washing and drying, the seams gently fray or 'rag,' producing a soft and cuddly look and feel. Ours is made from ten different kinds of Woolies Flannel in a collection of patterns and tones we thought were very ‘guy-like' and so qualified as an official boyfriend/hubby/dad/son/uncle/grandpa Valentine's Day project. Truth be told ... all the gals we showed it to we're ready to snap it up and take a little nap, so I think it's a perfect 'everybody' project.

The trick to a good rag is to choose cotton and other natural, loose weave fabrics, which are more likely to ravel when washed and dried. Flannel is always a favorite. And our favorite flannel right now is Woolies Flannel from Maywood Studio. We found a nice selection online at Fabric Depot. 

The quilt finishes at approximately 60" x 60".

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • Fabric for 73 squares (36 front and 36 back, plus 1 for the heart appliqué), we used: 10 different Woolies Flannel designs. See our swatch key and layout plan below for specific fabric choices and yardage.
    NOTE: Each square is cut 11" x 11" - you can use this measurement to figure your own cutting plan. In general, we found if you'd like to cut two or three squares from a particular fabric, get ¾ yard; if you'd like to cut four or five squares from a particular fabric, get 1 yard. Flannel tends to shrink up a lot when you wash it, so it's always good to get a little extra to be safe.
  • Thirty-six 9½" x 9½" squares of lightweight natural batting, we used: Warm & Natural Needled Cotton Batting
    NOTE: We gave the dimensions needed rather than yardage because batting comes in a huge variety of options: from bags pre-cut to standard bed quilt dimensions to bolts at 34", 45", 90" and 124". We bought 2½ yards of 45" wide batting.
  • All purpose thread to match your project for seams
  • All purpose thread in a contrasting color for "X" quilting stitch on each square
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pencil or marking pen
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sharp scissors (for clipping edges to rag)
  • Rotary cutter and mat (best for cutting squares but you can also use scissors)
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Straight pins

Click to Enlarge

Getting Started

  1. Download and print the Rag Quilt Heart Template. Cut out the heart shape. Set aside.
  2. Traditionally, flannel requires pre-washing, sometimes we even do a double pre-wash. The exception is for rag quilts. Unwashed flannel is crisper and easier to work with, and it rags better when washed at the conclusion of the project. We do recommend the first wash and dry be done with a "color catcher," such as Shout's Color Catcher Sheets. The sheets catch any dye that migrates
  3. Following our cutting guide or your own, cut thirty-six 11" x 11" squares for the front, thirty-six 11" x 11" squares for the back, and one 11" x 11" square for the heart applique.
    NOTE: We used one fabric for all the back squares, which is the easiest and looks quite nice. If you want to be extra fancy, you could mix and match fabrics on the back as well as the front. Just be aware this can make it hard during assembly to remember what's front and what's back.
  4. From your batting, cut thirty-six 9½" x 9½" squares.
  5. Following our layout plan or your own, make fabric ‘sandwiches' for each square. Your ‘sandwich' starts with one back square placed on your work surface WRONG side up, followed by one square of batting on top of that, centered carefully so there's ¾" of back fabric showing all around.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Finish your sandwich with one top square placed RIGHT side up.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Make thirty-six sandwiches in this same manner. (Is anyone besides me a little bit hungry?)

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Thread your machine with the contrasting color thread in the top and bobbin (we used a dark red color).
  2. Stitch an 'X' through the center of each square sandwich. This holds the fabric layers together through washing and drying. Without this step, your squares would like come out of the dryer looking twisted or puckered.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Re-thread your machine with the seam thread (the thread that matches your fabric; we used a wheat color) in the top and bobbin.
  4. Following our layout pattern or your own, take the first two squares of your first row and pin them, BACK sides together, along one edge.
  5. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance. Your raw seam should be standing up between the squares on what will be the front of your quilt.
    Click to Enlarge
    NOTE: Some fabric is directional, which means the pattern of the fabric runs in a specific line. If this is true of your selections, be sure to keep the direction of the fabric consistent as you sew the quilt together. And be sure to keep all lines straight and square.
  6. Take the next square in your first row sequence and attach it to the two-square unit you just completed. Continue until you have one six-square row.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Make the remaining five rows following the same steps.
  8. When all six of your rows are done, the next step is to stitch them togther. To do this, take your first and second row and place them BACK sides together. Pin in place along one long side, being careful to line up the perpendicular seams so your corners come together at a nice point.
  9. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
    Click to Enlarge
  10. Repeat to add rows three, four, five and six. Remember, you always start with backs together so your seam will stand up and show on the front.
  11. When all the rows are complete, stitch around the entire outside edge of the quilt, using a ½" seam allowance.
  12. With a pair of very sharp scissors, make small snips at ¼" intervals along ALL the raw seam edges in between the squares (yep -- that's a lot of snipping; there are 60 sections to clip).
  13. Do the same around the entire outside edge. Be careful not to cut through any actual seams.
  14. Find the heart shape you cut out above. Thread your hand sewing needle with a color of thread that matches the heart but will stand out against the fabric you selected for the back of the quilt (we used our dark red again).
  15. Center the heart on the fourth square from the left on the bottom row. Pin in place. Hand sew a simple running stitch close the the edge through all layers (the heart edges are raw). Your stitching will blend with the heart but show through on the back of the quilt as a heart outline (ahhhhhhhhhhhh).
    Click to Enlarge
  16. Wash and dry your quilt to 'rag' the seams and the edge of the heart.
    Click to Enlarge

Hints and Tips

The first time you launder the completed rag quilt, you're likely to leave a lot of thread and fabric pieces in your washer and dryer so don't forget to clean out your lint trap.

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Heather Tucker



Comments (27)

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

Hi, I have made many rag quilts in the past.  Some things I have found:  When you make the X on each block, use a zig zag stitch instead of straight.  Until I did this, most of the thread would break after use because it is sewn on the bias and a straight stitch will not stretch.  Also, I cut the batting the same size as the block.  All sides of the batting will be caught in the seam.  Otherwise, after washings the batting scoots to the middle of the block.  FYI!

Tammi Stupar said:
Tammi Stupar's picture

I have made a few rag quilts now. They really are so simple. I did the first one with 9" blocks flannel on front and fleece on back, the last two I did a large 9 patch with fleece on the back of one, and flannel on the back of the other one since this one was for a baby gift for a friend in Texas. 

Cynthia Jennings said:
Cynthia Jennings's picture

I have just finished this quilt I added the heart in the middle and my three grand childrens hand prints on some of the other squares. It was a lovely quilt to do Thank you.


Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Amy B. - Hmmm - corduroy would probably not be my first choice - because of the wale, it tends to break off in little balls rather than fray really well. I would try stitching together two pieces and then washing and drying the heck out them. See what happens. But, in general, flannel or a traditional woven is probably a better choice for a really fluffy rag. Now... using corduroy in a quilt where you aren't worried about it ragging... that is a great idea. I love the texture it adds to patchwork. 

Caitlyn E said:
Caitlyn E's picture
I love this quilt! I just made two for baby shower gifts. I just used 6in squares so it's not so big. They were super easy to make, adorable, and a huge hit! smilies/grin.gif Thanks so much for the pattern I can't wait to make one for myself!
Debrajoe said:
Debrajoe's picture
I absolutely Love this quilt. I think i'll run upstairs and make one. Hope it turns out a nice as yours!smilies/grin.gif
Ugh said:
Ugh's picture
I made a denim rag quilt but used fleece for one side so I didnt use any batting. It dosent fluff up as much but one a cold winter night (which here in ND were still waiting for lol) itll be a noce quilt to cuddle under and watch movies. I love your pattern so much more I cant wait to start sewing it!
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Florence-- Yes, we are sure the quilt will stay together. These rag quits are super popular. Keep your stitch set on a standard tight stitch length and you'll be just fine. Not only do you have the side seams of each square holding the layers together, you also have an "X" stitch through all the layers in each square.
Florence said:
Florence's picture
Are you sure that the quilt will stay together ok? Seems like when I sew something with a seam that is left untreated and it then frays, that then the stitching comes apart.
Sanaya said:
Sanaya's picture
I started making this quilt a little more than 9 yrs ago and taught it in a class. But I made it without batting and cut the hearts ( also did squares and circles)in three layers and shagged them out too. My quilt had three layers of fabric ( some students I showed to use flannel)instead of the batting. That was the main difference in my quilt design. We live in Texas so extra batting was a little to much heresmilies/grin.gif..The more you use it and wash it the better it become's. My grown kids and grand kids love it.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Carol Yates -- I'm always of the mind that you can do anything you'd like smilies/grin.gif! You can certainly leave out the batting; it will simply make for a lighter-weight blanket. To compensate, try to use the thickest flannel you can find. I'm sure your friend will love it either way. It's probably not something that will require a lot of washing.
Carol Yates said:
Carol Yates's picture
Would it be ok to make a rag quilt without the batting in the middle? I just finished a small one yesterday and it is a bit on the heavy side. Took forever to dry. I am making a much larger one as a gift and I am doing it in flannel front and back. I am scared it will be so heavy that she will have to go to the laundry mat to use the commercial machines to wash and dry it.
Katie Lee said:
Katie Lee's picture
I'm a first time quilter, and have this on my bucket list for 2011! I'd love to try this quilt, but don't have a sewing machine. I do have a lot of patience, and don't have any trouble using a needle and thread. Will the quilt hold up okay if I just do it the old fashioned way by hand? Would you recommend using any particular kind of stitch to make it more durable? Thanks for your help!
brenda1959 said:
brenda1959's picture
I am making rag quilts, and I love them. My daughter first inspired me to make one for my granddaughter. At first I thought it would be too hard. But boy! Was I wrong. They are really easy and fun to do. I made my granddaughter and my grandson one and have given several as gifts. I really like your website.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Tweetyoz -- I'm sorry to say you really need a dryer to get this look. The high heat and the tumbling are what fluff up ("rag") the raw edges. Maybe you can take it into a laundromat for the final washing and drying.
Tweetyoz said:
Tweetyoz's picture
Love this project - but just one question: Does it work out the same if you just wash the fabric and hang it on the line? We don't have a drier.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi DB -- Glad you are going to make this fun rag quilt. Time to make? There are a lot of variables based on your skill, but I think in general you could put this together in a solid day's work. The cutting of all the squares is the most time consuming. You should certainly be able to do it over a weekend. Regarding the edges -- all your squares should align, as shown on the diagram at the top, then - because you are sewing the seams so they show - all the seams and the edges will rag/fray. Take a look at the final picture on the project -- that's the bottom of the quilt folded up and shows how the bottom edge has ragged up nicely. hope that helps.
DB said:
DB's picture
Thanks for the intructions. Two questions. About how long does this project take and when sewing the rows together how do you arrange the ragged edges on the squares? Are they open, to the left, or what? (This may be obvious to some but I'm a fairly new sewer.) Thank you.
LCO said:
LCO's picture

I was searching for instructions on sewing a rag quilt, and was thrilled to find one on my favorite sewing website, Sew 4 Home! I have a question though - what is the finished size of this quilt?
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Thanks for sharing, kmeghan! Very cuddly smilies/cheesy.gif.
kmeghan said:
kmeghan's picture
I make a similar rag quilt for babies. I cut 9 12x12 blocks in coordinating colors, then another 9 12x12 blocks in the same fabric for the back. I just sew them into 1x3 strips, then sew them all together, then sew around the edges. I clip the seems a bit, then wash and dry and I've got a sweet baby quilt. I don't use batting becase the flannel tends to be fairly thick anyway. All my friends and family love them! (this one I made with some left over fabric, so the back is two different colors.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
What a great idea. We hope you're working to turn those 'non-sewers' into sew4home sewers!
peggyann said:
peggyann's picture
I love making rag quilts, working on a baby one right now with Valorie Wells' Sole in flannel, using no batting and 1" seams.

Rag quilts are a great group project, as it is easly to assembly line sew them, non-sewers can clip threads and clip seams. My sister's sew group and I have made them as "comfy quilts" one each for 4 girls and a mom that lost the dad, and for several seriously/terminally ill community members. It is truly rewarding project.
pegger1 said:
pegger1's picture
I had always wanted to make a rag quilt or any other type of quilt for that matter! lol Well, I saw your tutorial on this rag quilt and it gave me the confidence and motivation to go ahead and try it and I ran out to get the material. I finished it yesterday and it came out so nice and I really am proud of myself!
Thank you so much for your inspiration and clear directions! Now I can say, "I made a quilt"! And I'm sure I'll do it again
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hi Peffer1 .... I'm so happy to hear this inspired you to make a rag quilt. Perfect! If you can, email us a picture of your project. We love to see how things turned out. smilies/grin.gif

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